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115 Million Americans To Travel Over The Holidays In 2023, Says AAA

by Staff

Ho-ho-however you get from A to B over the holiday season, you won’t be alone. Airports and especially roads will be slightly more crowded between Christmas and New Year’s compared to last year.

In its annual end-of-year forecast, the AAA is projecting that 115.2 million Americans will be on the move over holiday travel period. The total number of domestic travelers is a 2.2% increase over last year but a 3.2% decrease from 2019, when 119 million Americans traveled over the holidays.

Mind you, AAA’s definition of “travel” is extremely broad: going 50 miles or more from home (no overnight stay required) at some point during the final ten days of the year. By this low bar, picking up a son or daughter from college would count, as would a shopping trip to an outlet mall an hour away.

‘Tis the Season for Highway Traffic

That’s not to say the roads won’t be crowded, as 90% of holiday travelers will be getting around by car. AAA expects nearly 104 million people will drive to their holiday destinations, a 1.8% uptick from 2022 but 3.7% less than in record-setting 2019.

As 2023 winds to a close, drivers can expect to pay about the same or less for a gallon of gas than they did last holiday season, when the national average on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day was $3.10 and $3.20 respectively.

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, predicts that the worst traffic during the 10-day holiday period will occur on three days: Saturday, December 23; Thursday, December 28; and Saturday, December 30, when many people will be heading back home from their holiday destinations or traveling for New Year’s Eve. The best times to hit the road are before lunchtime or after 7 pm.

It’s the Most Crowded Time of the Year at Airports

About 6.5% of holiday travelers will fly to their destinations, according to AAA estimates. Airports will be the busiest they’ve ever been over the Christmas and New Year’s travel period, as 7.5 million air travelers surpass 2019’s record of 7.3 million passengers.

Airfare over the holidays is slightly lower than last year, according to the airfare-tracking site Hopper, whose holiday travel outlook pegged average domestic ticket prices for Christmas trips at $400 this year, down roughly $52 per ticket (-12%) from last year, but still significantly higher (+29%) than in 2019.

More People Are Opting for an Alternative

The remaining 3.5% of holiday travelers will get to their destinations by other modes, such as bus, train or cruise ship. AAA expects more than 4 million Americans will take alternative transportation over Christmas and New Year’s. That’s a jump of 3.4% compared to 2022 and is even up 1.1% compared to 2019.

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